Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Thirty one

My birthday this year was a fairly low key event. It seemed appropriate - it's kind of an unwritten rule that once you're past 30, you stop having birthday celebrations with all your friends (because it's too freaking hard to organise, as I mentioned in my video on Thursday!) and start having small family celebrations instead.

So that's what I did. And in typical fashion, I took photos of what I ate rather than who I was with, because that's how I roll...

Just like last year, we went to Donovan's for lunch. Although this year, we were minus C, Paulie, Em and Matt and their brood. Ness came with us, though, so that made up for it! The food was delicious as always:
Asparagus salad with fried buffalo mozzarella

Four Tastes plate - pea and mint arancini, dry cured Wagyu beef,
heirloom tomato salad, and smoked salmon
Ness and I couldn't decide what to have for entree, so I got the asparagus salad, she got the Four Tastes plate and we shared. This is why you take your BFFs to fancy birthday lunches - they're always amenable to slightly ridiculous plans!

This year's main course was the same as last year's because why mess with perfection?
Chicken and mushroom pie of amazingness

And then dessert. Oh my word. I actually went onto the Donovan's website the day before my birthday to scope things out, and knew immediately which dessert I was going to have. Because how could you pass up on something that involved both chocolate AND doughnuts?!?!

And yes, it was just as amazing as it looks. The full description from the menu is as follows: "Layers of chocolate crémeux, salted caramel, raspberry gel, rice crispies and fresh raspberries with cinnamon doughnuts". Frankly, I have no idea what approximately half of that means, but it was to die for.

And fret not - the multiple spoons on my plate were because Little Miss A had ordered the same dessert and we knew there was no hope in hell of her getting through that on her own! (Also, I'm STILL impressed that I managed to avoid putting my arm in the chocolate sauce)

As for shiny things that I received in honour of turning 31, we have (amongst other things) the following:

A new watch, given that I managed to smash the winder off my old one on a plant stand(?!?!?!?).

A new ring, which kind of makes me want pretzels every time I see it.

New ankle boots.

And a parcel of nerdiness from C. I'm pretty excited about starting the book, and I'm already wearing the Tube map socks, because OBVIOUSLY.

So there you have it. 31 may have been a little quieter than 30, but that's totally okay. Because I got to spend my birthday night watching Pitch Perfect, and you can't get much better than that!

K xx

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

TTT - Top Ten Books to Read if You Like Bitten

It's time to link up with the Broke and the Bookish again!

I spent a lot of time debating what to do for this week's "Books to read if you like [insert TV show/movie/video game here]" topic. For some, I couldn't find more than a couple of books that fit the bill. For others, the list ended up being way too similar to previous Top Ten Tuesday posts. I thought about doing Buffy from the vampire perspective, but I'm kind of over the whole vampire thing. So let's go with werewolves/shapeshifters instead, shall we? OKAY.

1. Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
Obviously, if you like Bitten the TV series, you should check out the original source material. It's pretty different to the series, and a lot of fans of the Women of the Otherworld books were (understandably) quite upset with certain events that happened in the show. But I think they're both worth reading/watching, even if they end up going in fairly different directions! 

2. Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
I talk about the Kate Daniels series a lot, and with good reason: it's awesome. Kate may not be a werewolf/shapeshifter, but Curran sure is (well, he's a werelion, anyway). Their relationship is quite similar to the tumultuous ups and downs of Elena and Clay's relationship in Bitten, but starting from the beginning rather than having an entire messed up history between them.

3. Soulless by Gail Carriger
Another one featuring a super-strong king of the werewolves type guy and the woman who rolls her eyes at him constantly. This one has the added bonus of steampunk, extreme amounts of sass, incredibly ugly hats, and truly fabulous characters. Which isn't to say that the others don't have fabulous characters. Oh, you know what I mean. 

4. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
Angua is a lot like Bitten's Elena Michaels. But Carrot couldn't be less like Clay if he tried. And sure, this book doesn't focus a lot on the fact that Angua's a werewolf or what that means. If that's what you're after, give The Fifth Elephant a go instead. But Men at Arms is Angua's first appearance in the Discworld books, and she's pretty awesome right from the get-go. 

5. Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews
The Edge is a completely different world to that of the Kate Daniels series, and these books are a LOT more romance-y. But this one - which features a protagonist who shifts into a wolf - was my favourite of the series. 

6. Mr. Darcy's Bite by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Okay, this one's a total guilty pleasure. Even the author admits that it's basically cracked out fan fiction. But it was FUN cracked out fan fiction. Basically, Darcy is a werewolf and he's determined to tell Lizzy before he proposes to her. Go in with zero expectations and there's every chance you'll enjoy it. Totally silly, brainless fun. 

7. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Okay, so Wolf isn't exactly a were/shifter. He's a Lunar soldier with a few lupine tendencies. But this book is so great that I couldn't not include it on the list. I mean, a dystopian retelling of Little Red Riding Hood? How on earth could you pass up on that?! 

8. Heart of Iron by Bec McMaster
I giggled my way through the first book in this series, Kiss of Steel, because it was pretty ridiculous and the main love interest dude was a bleached blonde vampire with an East End accent named Spike Blade. I was uncertain going into Heart of Iron as a result. But I ended up really enjoying it. And not giggling every two pages. So...WIN.

9. The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong
Armstrong's YA series, Darkest Powers, features teenage supernaturals, including a werewolf on the brink of his first turn. In this, the final instalment of the trilogy, Derek finally turns. But he's not sure of himself or his powers or his strength or how to handle the mutts that start coming after him and his friends. It's a great contrast from the werewolf characters that Armstrong gave us in Bitten and the other Women of the Otherworld books. 

10. Club Dead by Charlaine Harris 
Look, when you're talking about a paranormal urban fantasy book that got adapted into a TV series, you basically HAVE to have a Sookie Stackhouse book on the list somewhere. It's been years since I read this one, but if I remember correctly, this is where Harris adds werewolves to the equation. 

Honourable mention: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for giving us Remus Lupin. It doesn't QUITE fit the bill here, but it still deserves a mention because it contains werewolves and is excellent. 

K xx

Monday, April 28, 2014

Movie Monday - the "what I saw over Easter" edition

Somehow, I managed to go to the movies three times over Easter. And, as usual, I had All The Thoughts about the movies I saw. So I figured that I'd just go ahead and discuss three movies at once.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
I don't quite know how to start with this one. I enjoyed it. It was very pretty. It was well acted. It was funny. But the whole time I was enjoying it and laughing at the jokes and getting into the story, I hated myself for enjoying it and laughing at the jokes and getting into the story. Because it was really problematic.

There are a grand total of seven named female characters. Three are sisters, and have about as many lines between them. Two of them have only a single scene before they're killed off. Another is a French maid and has about two lines that aren't "Oui, monsieur". Which leaves one female character with more than one scene/half a dozen lines. And she dies too. The Bechdel test may not be the greatest thing in the world, but this movie fails it so hard that it barely even has named female characters TALKING, let alone talking about something that isn't men.

Furthermore, M. Gustave's sexuality - he's very stereotypically gay, but with a tendency to sleep with rich and insecure old ladies in the hopes of inheriting - is treated as a running joke throughout the film. Add in the fact that Zero's character is played by a brown guy when he's a poor young lobby boy and a white guy when he's a rich hotel owner, and I was on the train to I'm-Not-Okay-With-This-Ville. (Yes, I know that F. Murray Abraham is of Syrian descent. That doesn't change the fact that they cast the much-darker-skinned-and-of-Guatemalan-descent Tony Revolori as a younger version of the same character. Sigh.)

The Lego Movie
I took Little Miss A to see this on Easter Saturday, and discovered that she eats popcorn in the most disgusting way ever (jams her hand in the tub, rummages around to get her hand covered in salt, licks her hand, returns it to the tub, actually eats very little popcorn). ANYWAY. I enjoyed the movie. The live action section gave me a lot of feels, and I actually enjoyed the story more after the live action part started than I did when it was just Lego. I loved all the little added touched for the adults in the audience - like the Millennium Falcon getting eaten - and the messages it conveyed to both kids and adults were good. Still, it was a little on the long side for a kids movie, and while I enjoyed it I'm not sure it's one I'll feel the need to rewatch in a hurry for reasons that I can't quite pin point...

Only Lovers Left Alive
Doug and I went to see this on Tuesday, so admittedly it wasn't QUITE over Easter. But whatever. And yes, we mostly went because of Tom Hiddleston. It was...interesting. Definitely not your typical vampire film, that's for sure. It was very arthouse - you could basically have removed "blood" and replaced it with "drug of choice" and come out with something not unlike Trainspotting. In order to keep their cover, there were lots of shady backroom deals with hospitals and wearing sunglasses inside and dealing with the monumental cock ups of others of your kind and the desperate lengths that they'll go to for their next fix.

So it was a really interesting interpretation of the vampire legend. BUT. It felt longer than it was, and there were times when the plot dragged. I think it was partly an arthouse thing, but in the hands of a different editor, the pacing could have been improved quite a lot. Also, apparently being a vampire means never brushing your hair, because I spent about 75% of the movie wanting to jump into the movie and attack the characters with a hairbrush... Still, it had its entertaining and moving moments, and the acting was superb throughout, so...I guess it comes out in the win column???

Have you seen any of these? What did you think?

K xx

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The things no one tells you about growing up

I've been thinking a lot over the past few days about how there are a bunch of things that they don't teach you as a kid. Things like how to do your taxes or that you'll still be dealing with zits in your fourth decade of life or that there's a reason why your parents don't let you eat an entire pizza for dinner every night. I had too many thoughts to articulate in a blog post, so here's a list of ten things in vlog form instead:

What would you add to the list?

K xx

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bout of Books 10

I've watched from the side lines for the past THREE Bout of Books readathons, and every single time I've thought "Ooooh, that looks like fun. I should join in next time!". And then I vague out and forget and sit on the sidelines through another round of awesomeness.


I actually put "Participate in Bout of Books 10" in my bookish goals for the year so that I wouldn't forget. (Yay for planning ahead!)

For those of you who aren't aware of Bout of Books, here's the official blurb:
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 12th and runs through Sunday, May 18th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 10 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

So there you have it. From the 12th to the 18th of May? I'm going to be reading even more than usual. Because of reasons.

Are you going to join in? If so, go here for details on how to sign up! 

K xx

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

TTT - Female Characters Who Won't Take Any Crap

It's time to link up with the Broke and the Bookish again!

Today's topic was just "top ten characters who _______". I tossed up between a bunch of different topics, and ended up with half a dozen half made lists. Whoops?? In the end, I went with "characters who kick butt and take names". Somehow, though, it turned out to be a list of awesome female characters who, when people are douchebags, don't take any crap and instead give this judgey "I hate you" face:

So let's get on with the list, shall we?

1. Veronica Mars, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas
Okay, so this is kind of cheating because Veronica Mars was an on-screen character years before she was a character on the page. But she fits the bill perfectly. Especially when you have such brilliant evidence of what her face would look like when she's 100% done with people and their crap.

2. Minerva McGonagall, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Yes, Maggie Smith is phenomenal in the movies. But Book!McGonagall is so much more awesome. She's so done with Umbridge's crap that she tells Peeves how to unscrew the chandeliers. She sassily offers Harry a gingernut instead of yelling at him when Umbridge complains about him. She has precisely zero time for nonsense, but still has the best interests of her students at heart.

3. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Katniss just wants to live her life, hang out in the woods, keep her family safe and her community well fed. Instead, she gets thrown into the violence of a spectacle designed to keep the population repressed and into a public arena that forces her into a love triangle she has very little interest in. So what does she do? Inadvertently starts a revolution.

4. Alexia Tarabotti, The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger
Alexia doesn't fit the social expectations of a Victorian lady. She eats as much as she wants, goes for long walks, is far browner and has a much larger nose than society considers polite, and she can turn vampires and werewolves human with a single touch. And she won't take any nonsense from anyone. Kidnapped? Finds a way to get out. Husband thinks she's cheating? Does everything she can to make him believe her. Has an incredibly precocious child who likes to throw herself off the side of airships? Eyerolls and takes charge. Fabulous.

5. Elena Michaels, The Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong
Elena's the only female werewolf in the world. She has to deal with an awful lot of asshattery from the rest of the world's werewolves as well as other supernaturals and, indeed, plenty of humans. Instead of taking it, she eyerolls and starts breaking bones. 

6. Granny Weatherwax, The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Oh my God, I adore Granny Weatherwax. I want to be her when I grow up. She's full of tricks and is incredibly shrewd and observant. But she always strives to do what's right, even if it means personal sacrifice. Just don't give her any crap or you'll regret it.

7. Kate Daniels, The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels is pretty much the definition of a BAMF. She's sassy, she has an enormous sword that she uses to take down vampires and demons and all manner of craziness. And she has no time for nonsense. Why put up with nonsense when you can chop its head off? 

8. Celaena Sardothien, The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas
She's been imprisoned, enslaved, and forced into killing people in exchange for maybe some day getting her freedom. When ordered to do things, Celaena does everything she can to not follow those orders, because she's completely and utterly done with the crap she's dealing with. 

9. Molly Metcalfe, The Secret Histories series by Simon R. Green
Molly is an insanely powerful witch, and she's not afraid to show it when people infuriate her. But she's also not afraid to help her boyfriend out when he or his family have done something to put the entire planet in jeopardy. And she laughs as she does it. 

10. Linh Cinder, The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer
Cinder is kind of an interesting case, in that she starts out doing everything she can to fly under the radar and obey orders. But as the series progresses, she becomes more and more done with her situation, and more and more determined to put an end to it. 

Which characters would you add to this list?

K xx

Monday, April 21, 2014

Movie Monday - Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

I've talked about this movie in the past, mostly as part of my "OMG I LOVED THIS" rambles at the end of last year. But I've never properly covered it for Movie Monday. Having bought it on DVD last week and watched it again over the weekend, it seemed only appropriate to cover it properly!

Reasons why Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is awesome:
1. Jeremy Renner. Like you expected anything else.
2. Billowy coats. Y'all know I'm a sucker for a good billowy coat, and Hansel's is pretty freaking spectacular.
3. Matrix-style arrow avoidance.
4. Gemma Arterton.
5. Hansel has diabetes and still kicks arse on a daily basis.
6. Ridiculous weapons.
7. Exploding dudes.
8. Ben and his fanboy flailing.
9. The final scene in the desert.
10. Famke Janssen.
11. The opening credits. They're pretty fabulous.
12. Ridiculous modernisations. I'm sure some people will find the inclusion of homemade tasers to be over-the-top stupid. But for me? It adds a note of steampunk-ness to the story.
13. Headbutting douchebags.
14. Death by shovel.
15. The soundtrack.
16. The magic wands the witches use. They're pretty freaking cool.

Plus, the following quotes:
- "Whatever you do, don't eat the fuckin' candy."
- "I hate to break this to you, but this isn't gonna be an open casket."
- "Revenge doesn't change the past. It won't bring our parents back. But it sure as hell feels good."
- "We learned a couple of things while we were trapped in that house. One, never walk in to a house made of candy. And two, if you're gonna kill a witch, set her ass on fire."
- "The Curse of Hunger for Crawling Things. I fucking hate that one."

Have you seen it? What did you think? (Obviously, it's totally ridiculous. But it's so FUN.)

K xx

Friday, April 18, 2014

Happy Easter!

Yes, I once again had No Beef and Yorkshire Pudding for Good Friday dinner. It's a tradition in our house, you can't NOT have it!

Have a safe and happy Easter, my little bloglings, whatever you're doing!

K xx

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter TBR pile

Over the past week or so, my TBR pile has gotten a little...out of control. Given that Easter tends to be a time of not-going-anywhere-because-everything-is-closed, I'm hoping that I can make some headway in the aforementioned pile. Especially as down here in the Antipodes, we have another long weekend next weekend courtesy of my birthday Anzac Day!

So what's in my TBR pile at the moment?

These are the physical copies. Technically, I'm like 80% of the way through The Odyssey, but I'd really like to get it finished so that I can give it back to Ness (I read like 225 pages in one afternoon of sitting in the hospital waiting for her to be discharged and have been averaging about 20 pages a day since then. Womp womp). And Fangirl is a reread, although I read it as an e-book last year, so I'm pretty psyched about reading it in physical form. Half Bad and Popular were freebies, courtesy of the Penguin Teen Australia live event on Monday night, and I'm pretty excited about reading both of them. And Two Graves is my last remaining library book.

Now for the e-books:

Stolen Songbird I've been excited about for a couple of months now. Stay Awhile is another reread, but I'm counting it as in my TBR pile anyway because I reeeeeeeeeally need to get through it before the final book in the series comes out. Which will be soon (right, Alysia?!?!?!). Pushing the Limits and The Enemy are recent additions following a bunch of "OMG YOU SHOULD READ THIS!" suggestions at PTA Live. The others have been languishing on my Kindle for months now (although I'm pretty sure that The Elite is going to be a #stupidbookisstupid hate read based on my feelings towards The Selection...).

So there you have it. Eleven books (not including the one I'm currently reading). I doubt I'll get through them all over Easter (and the Anzac Day long weekend), but hopefully I can at least whittle the list down to a more manageable level!

What are you planning on reading over the long weekend?

K xx

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Weird casting choice is weird

I've been watching Bitten over the past week or so, and to be honest, I'm a little amazed it took me this long because Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld books are one of my favourite series. They have great characters, awesome world-building, and fun stories filled with action and suspense and occasional squeeing. And yet, I was hesitant when it was announced that they were turning Bitten into a series.

Why? Because for starters, they only have the rights to the werewolf books, which basically means that they'll be forced to go non-canon pretty damned quickly. And secondly, because adaptations always come with a certain amount of "Oh. That's not how I pictured [person/place/event]" (see: the entirety of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice) or "Why didn't they include that scene?" (see: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) or "WHO DESTROYED THIS CHARACTER?????" (see: Ginny Weasley) or "Um. This is not how the plot goes at ALL." (see: anything titled The Lost World)

It's inevitable that this happens, and - based on some stuff I've seen floating around the internet - there were a lot of Women of the Otherworld fans who aren't happy with the way the show is going. I'm trying to keep an open mind - I still have two episodes left  - but there are a few things that I can't quite get over, and they mostly relate to characterisation.

1. Elena Michaels
Okay, so Elena is our protagonist. She grew up in the foster system, she fell in love with a guy, he turned her into the only female werewolf of ever. All of this applies to both the book and the series. But. Book!Elena is very jeans, t-shirt and sneakers low key. She ties her hair back with rubber bands, hates make up and perfume because it messes with her sense of smell, and she's a freelance journalist. What does the TV show give us?
A pretty pretty princess. Okay, Laura Vandervoort is pulling off Elena's character better than I thought she would in the pilot. And admittedly, Elena's a bridesmaid in this scene. But that doesn't change the fact that Elena's basically a fashion plate in every episode: multi-layered expensive clothes, heels/heeled boots in every scene, perfect hair. I have yet to see her in an outfit that looks easy to get out of in case of unexpected werewolf-ness. And for some bizarre reason, they've made her a photographer????? But they never show her with a camera or editing photos or even having camera gear lying around the house. It's a little odd.

2. Clayton Danvers
Okay, so both versions of Clay have a PhD in anthropology and teach at universities periodically. Both versions are jeans and t-shirts types. But Book!Clay is basically described as a Greek god, with blue eyes and close cropped curly blond hair and a Southern accent. (Part of me has always suspected that Kelley Armstrong had The Wedding Planner era Matthew McConaghey in her head when she wrote Clay...) Instead?
We get this guy. Who does not have a Southern accent. I'm learning to deal with him as Clay, but OH MY GOD, he looks like a total axe murderer in like half the scenes he's in. Which does kind of work for Clay's character, but DUDE. NO. Also, try washing your hair once in a while.

3. Jeremy Danvers
It's not immediately apparent in the first book, but it's revealed in a later book that Jeremy's mother was Japanese. He's described throughout the series as Eurasian-looking with black hair. This means that he turns into a black wolf (hair colour dictates fur colour). He has dark eyes and a lean build. And the show, in perhaps the most awkward casting choice of ever, gave us this dude:
*headdesk* Don't get me wrong, I think he's doing a pretty decent job of portraying the character. But it's a little bit like casting Bonnie Wright as Cho Chang, and you're just left wondering if they even bothered to read the books.

That said, I'm totally on board with the casting of Nick and Logan. And I really like the additional female characters that they've created!

Weirdly, I'm more accepting of the plot changes that have occurred than I am of the casting and costuming decisions. And the hair department decisions, for that matter. Most of the villains looks like they've been raiding a wig collection from a 1960s church camp, and it's BIZARRE...

Have you seen the show? What do you think?? Are you on Team OMG THAT WAS SO AWKWARD over the scene where Elena and Clay were flirty frolicking through the forest as wolves? Because that scene was terrible.

If you haven't seen it, have you had to live through the trauma of seeing your favourite characters mangled on screen? Any tips for coping with it?! Because I could really use them...

K xx

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

TTT - Non-Book Bookish Things I'd Like to Own

It's time to link up with the Broke and the Bookish again!

Today's topic is pretty self explanatory, so let's just get right to the shiny things, shall we?

I really love book posters (I bought my brother The Odyssey as a book poster for his birthday a few years ago, and it's AWESOME), but the Pride and Prejudice ones are always a bit schmaltzy for my taste. This one is much better. Plus, Persuasion is my favourite Austen book, so it works out nicely!

I have a weird obsession with maps, and this one (which is hideously low res, but if you click the link above, you'll see just how awesome it is!) is phenomenal. 

I was talking to Cait a few weeks ago about how I have illustrious dreams for some day having a nerdy mug collection. I have this rather odd tendency to buy mugs as souvenirs when I travel (which is annoying, because they're a bitch to get home without them breaking!). Last year's addition was a mug from the Library of Congress. And now that I've discovered this one, I need it in my life. 

I love me a good hoodie (at the moment, mine mostly come from universities that I didn't attend. What up, Harvard?!), and this one is pretty magical. Heh. MAGICAL. 

A candle that smells like old books? Uh, YES PLEASE. Although somehow I feel like Australia Post wouldn't be too keen on handling it, given that it's flammable and all...

For when I inevitably run out of space on my bookshelves and books start to pile up all over the place. Because OH MY GOD, SO ACCURATE. 

The Marauders' Map was always one of my favourite things about the Harry Potter series, whether in book or movie form. So I think I need this. Like, immediately.

8. A home library
Although I'm guessing mine would have rather more YA and quite a bit less leather-bound stuff on the shelves... 

We spent a class or two talking about banned books during my librarianship course, so this tote bag seems only appropriate to raise awareness of continuing book censorship! 

10. Card catalogue
Perhaps not one QUITE that big, but I do really want a card catalogue in which to put all sorts of random stuff. Creating a card catalogue for my home library would probably be overkill, wouldn't it............

What's on your list?

K xx

Monday, April 14, 2014

Movie Monday - Catching Fire

So last week I fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinally saw Catching Fire. I had every intention of seeing it at the movies when it came out last year, but I was in New Zealand when it was released and by the time I got home, I'd kind of forgotten about it. So I just ended up waiting until it came out on DVD instead. So now, like six months after the fact, let's talk about Catching Fire, shall we?

Reasons why Catching Fire is awesome:
1. Jennifer Lawrence.
2. The speeches in District Eleven.
3. Josh Hutcherson.
4. The dress reveal. Amazing.
5. Woody Harrelson. So much sass.
6. Peeta volunteering for Haymitch. FEELS.
7. Elizabeth Banks. Effie showed so much character development from the first movie.
8. Katniss' face when the little girl says she wants to volunteer some day just like Katniss.
9. Sam Claflin as Finnick.
10. The elevator scene. HILARIOUS.
11. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. Perfection.
12. Snow's glass getting blood in it when he drinks. A great little detail for fans of the books.
13. Jena Malone as Joanna. Total badass.
14. Katniss' Seneca Crane dummy.
15. Willow Shields as Prim. Her character gets so much depth here.
16. The tributes holding hands en masse.

Plus, the following quotes:
- "We wanted our love to be eternal. You know, Katniss and I were luckier than most. I wouldn't have any regrets at all, if it weren't... if..." "If it weren't... for what? What?" "If it weren't for the baby."
- "It must be a fragile system if it can be brought down by just a few berries."
- "My stylist is such an idiot. District 7, lumber. Trees. Ugh. I'd love to put an axe on her face."
- "So it's you and a syringe against the Capitol? See, this is why no one lets you make the plans."
- "Katniss." "Hello, Finnick." "Do you want a sugar cube? I mean it's supposed to be for the horses, but, I mean who cares about them right? They got years to eat sugar, whereas you and I, well if we see something sweet we better grab it." "No thanks, but I would love to borrow that outfit someday."
- "A wedding dress? Really?" "Snow made me wear it." "Make him pay for it."
- "What about you?" "Nobody needs me." "I do. I need you."
- "Nobody ever wins the games. Period. There are survivors. There's no winners."
- "See Katniss, the way the whole "friend" thing works is that you have to tell each other the deep stuff." "The deep stuff?" "Yeah." "Like what?" "Like... what's your favourite colour?" "Oh, now you've stepped over the line."
- "Any last advice?" "Stay alive."
- "We have seen a lot of tears here tonight. But I see no tears in Johanna's eyes. Johanna, you are angry. Tell me why." "Yeah, well, yes! I am angry. You know, I'm getting totally screwed over here. The deal was that if I won the Hunger Games, I get to live the rest of my life in peace. But now, you wanna kill me again. But you know what? Fuck that! I'll fuck everybody who had anything to do with it!" "All right, then. One woman's opinion."

What did you think?

K xx

Friday, April 11, 2014

Lists. Lists of things. Things and stuff.

It's no secret that I'm kind of obsessed with lists. If I can procrastinate actually doing things by making a list of the things I have to do, I will do it. And then redo it, with colour coding. I think part of the reason why the 101 in 1001 appealed to me so much was because it was a list. Ultimately, though, I wasn't so good at the timing thing. I have a tendency to do half a dozen things from any list I make, then become complacent over how much I've accomplished and promptly slack off for the next three hundred years six months.

With all of that in mind, I decided that rather than attempting (and inevitably failing) another 101 in 1001 project, I'm going to take a leaf out of Deidre's book and have a life list instead. Said list will no doubt change pretty regularly, with things being added and removed as I see fit, but for now? Here's where things are at:

I Can Show You the World (Travel stuff)
Visit somewhere new in Australia
Visit all seven continents
Visit Easter Island
See the Northern Lights
Roadtrip along the Pacific coast of the US
Go on safari
Fly first class

You Should Employ Your Little Grey Cells (Brain stuff)
Read 500 new books
Finish my Classics Club challenge
Finish the AFI Top 100
Learn a new language

Money Makes the World Go Around (Finance stuff)
Buy a house/apartment/unit/dwelling/thing.
Voluntarily pay off some of my student loans
Buy an original piece of art
Voluntarily contribute to my superannuation
Buy a leather jacket

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger (Health and fitness stuff)
Do the Couch to 5K
Try archery
Try Crossfit
Go iceskating

He Was A Punk, She Did Ballet (Cultural stuff)
Go to the opera
Go to the symphony
Go to the ballet
Visit 20 new museums

Singing Pork, Dancing Veal, What An Entertaining Meal (Food stuff)
Try 100 new recipes
Make pasta
Eat at a Michelin Star restaurant
Finish my cookbook challenge
Eat at 50 new restaurants
Learn to plate a dish properly

Open Your Eyes And Then Open Your Eyes Again (Creative stuff)
Complete VEDA again
Write a novel
Take a photography course
Sew a piece of clothing from scratch

I've Wrestled Crocodiles and Dingoes Simultaneously (Random stuff)
Have a herb garden
Give money to a street performer
Go to a convention (i.e. Comic-Con)
Go stargazing

Obviously, it's going to be a continual work in progress, but that's where things stand at the moment! What's on your bucket list? Anything you think I should add??

K xx

PS. Bonus points if you can tell me what each of the section titles is from!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Better alone

Do you ever come across these amazing female characters, and you absolutely love them? And they have a love interest, and you think they and the love interest are really cute together and you spend forever squeeing over them? And then they get together, and you squee like a lunatic. But as the relationship goes on, you realise something: deep down, you liked the character better when she was alone.

This has been happening to me a lot recently, and it's kind of an interesting phenomenon, because it's not one that I've ever run into with male characters, as far as I can recall (well, maybe with Dawson Leery, but that's because he's an awful human being who *deserves* to be alone...).

Anyway, I want to talk about some of the characters that I kind of think are better off alone. Because reasons.

Buffy Summers
It's not secret that rewatching Buffy for Snark Squad completely changed the way I felt about certain characters. Rewatching Angel for Snark Squad has made everything worse, because in season 5, we spend an awful lot of time watching Spike and Angel fight over which one of them gets Buffy. AND SHE'S NOT EVEN THERE. Her relationships with both of them were pretty fucked up, and her relationship with Riley was basically a season and a half of rebound. Even Buffy agrees at the end of season 7 that she's better off alone.

Katniss Everdeen
Much was made of the love triangle in The Hunger Games, but every time I read the books, I'm struck by how reluctant Katniss is to be involved with either Peeta or Gale. At the end of Mockingjay, she basically tells us that it took Peeta the better part of a decade to convince her that having kids was a good idea. Being a part of the Games forced her into faking a relationship with Peeta, which in turn led to Gale being all jealous and "I LOVED YOU FIRST"-y. Katniss is a hesitant participant from start to finish, and it almost seems like she ends up with Peeta just so that there's someone there in the night when she wakes up screaming.

Veronica Mars
Don't get me wrong, I adore Veronica and Logan. Piz can go jump in a lake for all I care. But I read the new Veronica Mars novel yesterday, and I thought it was really interesting that Rob Thomas chose to really limit the communication between Veronica and Logan throughout the course of the story. Yes, it's partly because he's deployed in God knows where. But when they DO communicate? The conversation is stilted and a little awkward. You can't undo nine years of separation in two weeks, so of COURSE it would be awkward between them. All of that aside, I found myself liking Book!Veronica more than I liked Couple-y!Veronica...

Natasha Romanoff
I love the IDEA of Clintasha so much it's not even funny. I squeed like a lunatic when I saw her arrow necklace. But do I want the MCU to be filled with a weepy Natasha by an injured Clint's bedside? Do I want them being all public-displays-of-affection-y before heading off on missions? Do I want a Clintasha wedding officiated by Tony Stark (who got a licence on the internet) in the ruins of whatever threat to the world they've just defeated? NOPE (except maybe that last one because it sounds kind of awesome...). I want her to stay her sassy BAMF-tastic, arse-kicking self. (Although if they want to include some anvils about #secretsexytimes, that would be fine)

Dana Scully
Much like with Clintasha, The X-Files dropped some pretty big anvils about #secretsexytimes between Mulder and Scully over the years. That said, when we did eventually get a canon relationship in the second X-Files movie, it was TERRIBLE. Much better to have Scully on her own with frequently dropped anvils than in a relationship that didn't live up to expectations.

Rory Gilmore
Rory, Rory, Rory. So incredibly smart. Such terrible taste in men... Dean turned out to be a complete douchenozzle with a side of extra-marital affair. And Logan Huntzberger was just awful from start to finish. Jess is clearly the best fit for her, but - much like Logan Echolls - he needs time away from her to deal with his problems and grow up. Thank God the show ended with her on her own, going off to take over the journalistic world.

Cristina Yang
Oof. Poor Cristina's had a rough road. Admittedly, I haven't watched the last season and a half of Grey's Anatomy - I kind of gave up a little after the plane crash, because Lexi was one of my favourites. But Cristina keeps getting paired with these characters who don't understand her or who want completely different things to her and can't see that she won't change her mind about them. And then when she's all "Um, no. You knew that before this even started...", they get all butthurt about it, and she's left to pick up the pieces of her life. Again... BLURGH.

Ellie Linton
I adored the Tomorrow, When the War Began books as a teenager. But Ellie, the gutsy incredible narrator of the series, is SO MUCH BETTER not in a relationship. She goes back to Lee time and time again, even though she hates the things that he does and the way it effects him. She has this awesome sibling relationship with Homer, and then the end of The Ellie Chronicles has a friend being all "You know Homer's in love with you, right?". Um. WHAT?!

Winifred Burkle
Oh my God. SO MUCH of Fred's character was destroyed by the writers making her the plaything at the centre of a love triangle between Gunn and Wesley. She deserved so much better than to wind up in a crappy relationship with either one of them. I don't think I'll ever be over how she was treated in seasons 4 and 5...

This doesn't mean that ALL strong female characters are better off alone - just look at Zoe Alleyne Washburne, or Rose Tyler. Pepper Potts or Willow Rosenberg (minus the Kennedy thing, because NOPE). Olivia Dunham, Elizabeth Bennet, Alexia Tarabotti, Elena Michaels, Piper Halliwell, Kate Daniels, Hermione Granger, Sydney Bristow. The list goes on and on.

Furthermore, this doesn't mean that the characters I've discussed above should be alone forever. It definitely doesn't mean that. What it DOES mean is that the writers aren't doing the characters justice. They pair them with unsuitable characters, turn their whole storyline into a relationship story, or have them fall apart where they previously would have stood up and fought. And it's infuriating...

Who would you add to this list? Are there any that you'd remove??

K xx

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

She - H. Rider Haggard

Not the edition I read, sadly. Source.
I first read She in 2002, for a university subject titled "Archaeology in Film and Literature" (yes, the subject WAS the most awesome thing of ever, because I got to watch Indiana Jones and The Mummy for credit). It led me into a serious H. Rider Haggard jaunt, where I ploughed through all the Haggard books my university library had fairly quickly. I remembered enjoying this a lot and, given that it was basically the start of the "lost world" sub-genre, it seemed only appropriate that I add it to my Classics Club list.

Plot Summary:
Cambridge professor Horace Holly is surprised when a friend of his turns up, hands over a mysterious box and custody of his five year old son, Leo, and then promptly dies. Twenty years later, Leo - who's now smoking hot - opens the box to find that it contains an ancient piece of pottery and numerous documents, indicating that he's descended from an old Greek dude named Kallikrates, who was killed by a mysterious white queen in deepest Africa. On the pottery sherd, Kallikrates' wife, the Egyptian princess Amenartas, demands that her son and/or his descendants seek revenge.

So Holly and Leo set off for Africa with their trusty servant, Job. They get shipwrecked, contract malaria, and nearly get eaten by cannibals, but eventually they make it to the queen's home, near the ruined city of Kôr, which predates ancient Egypt by several thousand years. There, they meet Queen Ayesha, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, who claims to have the secret of immortality (she's over 2000 years old) and who promptly falls in love with Leo, who's apparently a dead ringer for Kallikrates. Shenanigans ensue.

Oy. This was kind of rough. The story took a long time to get going, partly due to the fact that the part where Leo's going through all the documents is filled with slabs of Greek and Latin and Medieval English. Much of the dialogue once they arrive in Africa is meant to take place in an antiquated form of Arabic, and is therefore written thusly: "blame me not if thou dost wear away thy little span with such a sick pain at the heart that thou wouldst fain have died before ever thy curious eyes were set upon me." (p. 144 in the crappy, independently published "YAY THIS IS OUT OF COPYRIGHT" edition that my library had)

So that made it quite difficult to get into the story because it was constantly flicking between nineteenth century English (for Holly's observations) and something resembling Shakespearean English for the dialogue. As a result, my brain struggled to keep up, and I found myself unable to read more than 25-30 pages at a time before my eyes started to glaze over.

It's really hard to read this type of book in the twenty first century without constant headdesking over the Victorian ideas about women and race. Here, the Amahagger people over whom Ayesha rules are billed as uneducated, cannibalistic savages who practice animal sacrifice. It's billed as a matriarchal society, but then we're told that every decade or so, the men rise up and kill off all the older women to put them back in their place again. Ayesha rules over them because she's white and educated, but even then, a lot of her ideas are billed as "the noble savage"-esque.

In Kôr, we're given a lost African civilisation, which YAY! But Ayesha shows Holly the catacombs of Kôr's citizens, and they're all white (Their perfectly preserved 4000 year old corpses also make excellent fire starters, apparently). Obviously, the idea of a lost civilisation that was highly educated AND populated by people of colour was too much for Victorian sensibilities to handle...

Ayesha's an interesting character. She's a woman in a position of power who's not afraid to use her beauty to convince men to do her bidding. Even Holly, who happily proclaims himself a misogynist, falls under her charms when he sees her face. But on the other hand, she's obsessed with the idea of her "lost love", despite the fact that Kallikrates chose his wife over Ayesha, and she killed him for it. It's her way or the highway - anyone who displeases her is rapidly put to death, and she considers all her subjects to effectively be primitive slaves. She uses her beauty as a weapon, and ultimately it betrays her.

Headdesking aside (because let's be honest - if we discounted books based on the attitudes of the times in which they were written, there would be an awful lot of classic books deemed not worth reading), the last 50-odd pages were pretty exciting stuff. Yes, it was still a little slow but FAR more thrilling than the book's early stages.

On the whole, it wasn't nearly as action packed as I remembered it being, and I can't help but feel like it would have been a lot more enjoyable if the dialogue hadn't been so formal and stilted a lot of the time...

Have you read it? What did you think?

K xx

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

TTT - Most Unique Books I've Read

It's time to link up with the Broke and the Bookish again!

Today's topic is about the most unique books we've read, which is pretty cool. There's a lot of stuff out there that starts to feel a bit deja vu-like after a while. You know the stuff - a love interest with a crooked smile, a chosen one who has to save the world, an evil government that can only be brought to its knees by a seventeen year old girl, blah blah blah. Let's talk about the OTHER stuff. The stuff that makes you go "Whoa, that's seriously cool." The stuff that stands out from the crowd. Yes? Yes.

(All images from Goodreads)

1. Wilfair (and Redwoodian. And Stay Awhile) - Alysia Gray Painter

I know I talk about this series a lot, but it's just so fabulously quirky. The characters are in no way cliched or cookie cutter-y or crooked smile having. The settings are utterly fabulous. The writing is to die for (once your brain gets past the initial "............what am I reading?!" stage). And the plots are like nothing I've ever seen before. GO. READ. NOW. 

2. Shadows Fall - Simon R. Green

This book is weird, to say the least. It's set in the place where gods and monsters go when no one believes in them any more, where old toys end up when they're no longer loved, where celebrities who died too soon can have a little more time, where the heroes from TV shows and cartoons go when everyone's forgotten who they are. Everything is nice and peaceful until murders start happening. It's a story of redemption and prophecies, and it's full of completely awesome characters. (And please - don't judge it by the android-y cover on the US edition, because it's HIDEOUS)

3. Love and Leftovers - Sarah Tregay

I picked this up at the library last year thinking that it would be a cute YA thing. It turned out to be written in verse, which I was NOT expecting. I nearly put it down immediately based solely on that, because I'm not a big poetry person. But I gave it a shot and ended up loving it. Despite being written in really short snippets, it does a brilliant job of conveying the characters and the story was so much deeper than the usual contemporary YA fluff. 

4. Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

A book that not only brilliantly conveys what it's like to start out in a new place where you know no one, and how people aren't always what you think, but also a book that discusses fandom really REALLY well. Fandom and fanfic are huge parts of a lot of people's lives, and it's really rare that you find characters who are into fandom and fanfic but aren't stereotypical comic book nerd types who feel the need to hide their identity so that people will like them. 

5. Beauty Queens - Libba Bray

Packed full of cultural satire, this book was pretty hilarious from start to finish. Given that it's about a plane full of beauty queens that crashes onto a deserted island, there's no one main character. Instead, we get girls from all walks of life, of all different ethnicities and sexual orientations and motivations who have to work together to stay alive. Sure, the plot verges on paper-thin here and there, but it's so much fun that I didn't really care.

6. Flowertown - S.G. Redling

A really interesting, semi-dystopian book. Ellie is a really awesome character. She's really complicated and a little messed up, but she just keeps on fighting, no matter what. Lots of great supporting characters and full of twists and turns. Plus, it leaves the reader with a bunch of "What if?" questions about how a situation like that would be handled in the real world. 

7. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

Man, this book is polarising. People either love it or hate it, and a huge part of what makes that decision for people is what makes the book unique - THE MAIN CHARACTERS ARE AWFUL AND IMPOSSIBLE TO LIKE. It's a rare book that can have me hating pretty much every character I come across and still want to keep reading and find out what happens. 

8. Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor

This series is unlike anything I've read before. Wonderful settings, fabulous characters. The chimaera are fascinating, the angels aren't what you think, and it's filled with characters finding love in the most unlikely of places. 

9. Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta

A contemporary YA book in which the romantic plot isn't central to the story? YES PLEASE. There's a lot going on in this book, including children struggling to deal with the fall out of a parent who's suddenly stopped doing all the things you expect a parent to do (including the basics, like getting out of bed). And, much like real life, there are moments that will make you laugh hysterically and moments that will make you ugly cry. Basically, it's really relateable, while also recognising that romance isn't everything.

10. A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness

Really short but such a completely incredible story. It's a story about fear and grief and pain and having no one understand you. The artwork is astonishing, and the story manages to be both heartbreaking and full of love. One that stays with you well after you've turned the final page. 

What are the most unique books you've read? 

K xx
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